Comic Actor Kenneth Mars, 75, Dies; Played in “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers” and “What’s Up, Doc?”

He was vain musicologist Hugh Simon, obsessed playwright Franz Liebkind, and stern Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp. And all of them were rollicking great character roles.

I’m going to miss this guy for moments like these:

Actor Kenneth Mars later in life. Mars died last Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He was 75 (Courtesy: TheaterMania)

Kenneth Mars died last Saturday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Granada Hills, CA.

Mars, a native of Chicago, started acting in the early 1960s, lending his voice to The Jetsons before going on to bit roles in Gunsmoke and Car 54, Where Are You?

But in 1968, Mel Brooks cast Mars in The Producers as batty auteur Franz Liebkind, who ultimately can’t handle the smashing success of the musical “Springtime for Hitler,” in which leading man Lorenzo St. DuBois (Dick Shawn) plays Adolf Hitler as fabulously gay. It’s a riot.

Will Ferrell played the role in the remake-based-on-the-Broadway-musical, but Mars’ version was the cult classic.

In a career spanning the rest of his life, Mars also appeared in Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, What’s Up, Doc? with Barbra Streisand, The Parallax View with Warren Beatty, and Woody Allen’s Radio Days and Shadow and Fog. He made numerous TV guest appearances, as well, on shows ranging from Party of Five to Hannah Montana.

Another major mark he made in pop culture: The Northwestern grad was also the voice of Ariel’s father, King Triton, in The Little Mermaid. He could also be heard over the years in Thumbelina, the Nickelodeon show Rugrats and The Land Before Time movies.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Mars is survived by his daughters Susannah Mars Johnson and Rebecca Mars Tipton; their husbands, Gary Johnson and Wayne Tipton; and grandchildren Alex Tipton, Kate Johnson, Noah Tipton, Nick Tipton, Olivia Johnson and Sam Tipton.

Funeral services will be private. Donations on Mars’ behalf can be made to Smile Train of Washington D.C., an organization which provides free surgeries to those children in developing countries with cleft lip and cleft palate.

~ by blksista on February 18, 2011.

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